An Ayurvedic Approach to Spring

The rain is pouring down, washing away the remnants of this winter’s snow piles as I write this. Do I dare believe spring is near?!

The spring season is traditionally a time of renewal. We throw open our windows, deep clean the messes that piled up over the long winter and prepare for cleansing and new growth.

While nature blossoms beautifully in the springtime, humans often experience a much less graceful transition this time of year. We often find ourselves feeling sluggish – like a reluctant, cranky bear coming out of hibernation.

To enjoy a healthy, active spring, you need a basic understanding of Ayurveda – yoga’s sister science – especially of the kapha dosha and how to bring it into balance.

Kapha Dosha

Of the three doshas, it’s kapha that brings light, warmth, and an increased energy. When it’s in balance, you’ll feel strong, composed, and stable – with strong muscles, lubricated joints, and an affectionate, loving personality.

The spring season is sweet and gentle, one that encourages us to slow down. The softness you might notice is an attribute of the water element, while the slowness is an attribute of the earth element. When these elements combine – as they’re doing each day outside this time of year – they encourage growth and new life. Buds begin to form on the trees and flowers pop out of the soft ground. Yet, when there’s too much water and earth combining, we get thick, overwhelming mud instead.

So, too, is the case for us humans. When our kapha dosha is out of balance, we figuratively get stuck in the mud. You may notice a tendency toward lethargy. Or you might gain weight, experience excess phlegm in your lungs or sinuses, and feel a heaviness in your limbs.

The kapha dosha is aggravated by qualities that are heavy, cold, or moist, so I encourage you to invite in lightness, warmess, and dryness through the food, activities, and self-care rituals you choose to engage in.

Common signs of kapha imbalance:

  • Dullness and lethargy in the mind
  • Excess congestion
  • Oily skin
  • Swelling
  • Sluggish digestion
  • Attachment issues

It’s incredibly important to intentionally balance your kapha dosha in the springtime, because it accumulates during the winter’s cold and wet atmosphere. As each of us hibernates during the winter, we develop a winter coat of insulation that must be shed to decrease our vulnerability to allergies or head colds.

So, what’s your basic prescription for spring? Develop a rhythm or routine that helps you gradually lighten your body, mind, and emotions.

Stay tuned next time as we dive deeper into the yoga poses, nutritional habits, and sleeping patterns best suited for balancing your kapha dosha this spring.

4 Tips for an Easier Holiday Season

Oh, the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year! That, somehow, also becomes a time of stress and chaos for most of us. What should be a relaxing time with family often becomes a mess of getting everything done, trying to eat right once in a while, and making sure everyone is enjoying themselves – yourself included. Fewer hours of daylight, unpredictable weather, poor travel experiences, and social events filled with insane amounts of food and drinks can leave us feeling way off balance.

However, this is an excellent time to slow down and put into practice the lessons you’ve learned through yoga this year. If this seems impossible, check out our four tips for surviving (and thriving!) the holiday season and beyond.

4 Tips for an Easier Holiday Season

Set an intention to care for yourself. For many people, “the most wonderful time of the year” becomes “the most stressful time of the year.” Our regularly busy lives become aggravated due to additional expectations like hosting parties, baking cookies, and shopping for gifts. Just as we set intentions before yoga practice, I suggest you set an intention for self-care and self-love this holiday season. An intention is not just a thought – it’s a powerful commitment that begins the process of change. The commitment may be small – like five minutes each day of deep breathing – or it may be something longer like a daily yoga class. Whatever you choose, keep it doable.

Notice – and let go of – your expectations. We all fill our minds with expectations about how our lives should operate. For example, some of us strongly appreciate order and punctuality. Obstacles like traffic jams and long lines at the grocery store drive us crazy. Life – especially around the holidays – simply does not go according to schedule. At any moment, a canceled flight, out-of-stock gift, or any number of things can ruin our expectations. Part of overcoming stress around the holidays is simply learning to accept what comes before us. Yoga does a great deal of teaching along these lines. Each time you step on your mat, you challenge yourself to accept where your body and mind are that day and give yourself what you need – whether that’s a challenge or restoration.

Take a purposeful pause to focus on breathing. When we feel threatened or overwhelmed, our nervous system dumps stress hormones into our bloodstream. One of the quickest ways to diffuse this stress is through intentional breathing. While this certainly won’t feel easy at first, as you slow down your exhalations, you’ll begin to relax and recalibrate your body. I suggest taking a purposeful pause occasionally throughout your day. It’s important to let this come naturally so that taking a break is not yet one more thing on your hamster wheel of tasks and commitments. Perhaps it’s a few extra minutes of deep breathing in the shower or a deep breath before you walk in your house. The important point is to create small spaces in your day where you can hit the reset button.

Practice gratitude. While it may seem difficult to feel grateful in the midst of stress, it is possible. Consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down small things that bring you joy each day. Maybe you notice the sunshine peeking out just once during a stretch of gray, Michigan days – or maybe you notice that for one small moment you’ve stopped obsessing over your overly long to-do list. What seems like a silly exercise can do wonders in helping you recognize the beauty around you.

Most importantly, practice compassion and kindness with yourself this season. Don’t push yourself too hard. Spend some quiet time alone when you need to unwind – and make time for friends when you’re feeling social. Reflect on the good things and let go of the rest. Realize that everyone is really doing the best they can. Make time to breathe. And visit us at the studio whenever you need an escape!

We do have some limited hours near the holidays, so please check out our online schedule before showing up for your favorite yoga classes!

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda: The Sister Science to Yoga

Ayurveda is India’s ancient system of health and healing. It differs from modern medicine in that every individual is considered unique – and there is no common diet or lifestyle routine that will work for everyone.

Ayurveda is based on the principles of three doshas: Pitta, Vata, and Kapha. Doshas are the energy patterns that make up each individual person. This science teaches that each individual contains specific mental and physical traits that compose our constitution.

Although we’re born with all three of the doshas, they form differently in each of us, creating a unique combination that makes us exactly who we are! Generally, one dosha tends to influence us most heavily.

Characteristics of Each Dosha

VataThis represents cold, dry, and light. It is the force that controls our movement, regulates our nervous system, and oversees the elimination of waste. People with strong vata dosha are creative, quick to learn and grasp knowledge. They are excitable but tend to tire easily.

However, when this energy is out of balance, they may experience fear, anxiety, and impulses. They generally have dry skin and hair.

Pitta- This represents hot, wet, and combustive. It is the force that controls our digestion and metabolism. People with a predominance of pitta tolerate most foods, but can’t handle missing a meal. They tend to have an average body build, are good speakers, organize well, and are ambitious.

If their pitta gets out of balance, they lean toward irritability, outbursts of anger, and perfectionism. Typical physical problems include rashes, heartburn, insomnia, or dry eyes.

Kapha- This represents cold, wet, and heavy. It is the protective force that governs stability, structure, and moisture in our mind and body. Kapha types are usually affectionate, loving, and nonjudgmental. They tend toward slow speech, which reflects their deliberate thought process. They are calm and strive to maintain harmony in their relationships.

A lack of balance can lead to feelings of envy, insecurity, and depression. Their physical problems can include colds, congestion, and respiratory problems.

What are the Benefits of Ayurveda?

For all doshas, asana practice complements the positive aspect of our dosha while teaching us what we need to do to bring it into balance. For example, daily routine connects Vata types to the earth, boosting strength and stability. For Kapha individuals, it brings light and warmth to increase your energy and reduce lethargy. For strong Pitta types, it offers breath awareness to bring peace to your mind.

Are you ready to learn more? Join us on Saturday, September 22 from 12:00-3:00 p.m. for a fun, life-affirming class on Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga. Together we’ll explore how Ayurveda helps us uncover self-care and nutritional practices that honor our uniqueness. You’ll discover ways to improve your sleep, digestion, weight regulation, and natural detoxification.